Usage: Of versus Off

Incorrect: Put of the light.

Correct: Put off the light.

There are many instances (like the one mentioned above) where people use of instead of off.  Let’s get the rules straight once and for all.

Of:  It is a preposition and has several functions in a sentence. However, the main function is to denote various relations that are described in the sentence.

It is used to:

  • specify a point of reckoning: South of the building
  • point out the material or element of something: Ornaments of gold
  • indicate a possessive relation: Queen of England

Off: It acts as an adverb as well as a preposition. The former function is more common than the latter.

It is used:

  • as the opposite of on: Turn off the television.
  • to indicate distance: He set off for the beach.
  • to show that something has been cleaned/ removed:

He cleaned the soup off the floor.

She took off the wheel of the pram.

The reason most people confuse these two words is that both these words have the same etymology (they have originated from the same word) and pronunciation.

Keep in mind that the usage is completely different.

Common mistakes: Of versus Off

1. Incorrect: How far of is the bakery?

    Correct: How far off is the bakery?

2. Incorrect: Get of me!

    Correct: Get off me!

3. Incorrect: James admired the ceiling off the church.

    Correct: James admired the ceiling of the church.

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